Finland votes: Sanna Marin has to fear for re-election

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Status: 04/02/2023 03:36

The Finnish Prime Minister is internationally regarded as a political superstar. But domestically there is a crisis. The welfare state is under pressure, debt is rising and right-wing populists are on the rise.

By Christian Blenker, ARD Studio Stockholm

They are still among the brightest minds in the world. For years, Finland’s students have been at the forefront of international educational comparisons. At the Mankka school in Espoo near Helsinki, for example, they were proud of just that for years. But the excellent reputation is in danger.

Not only Vertti Stenfors notices that. The 15-year-old is in the ninth grade. He has been feeling the effects of the savings in the education system for a long time. “Not everything is as perfect as it looks from the outside. There is a lack of money and teachers.”

Is the welfare state in Finland crumbling?

Christian Blenker, ARD Stockholm, Weltspiegel, April 2, 2023

No more free laptops

German teacher Antti Piiroinen rarely writes anything on the blackboard. Teaching in Finland is largely digital. With free laptops for everyone. But for the first time, the school was no longer able to offer computers to the lower grades.

The money wasn’t enough. Teacher Piiroinen also has significantly more students in the classroom than before. “Society is changing. The wealthy are doing well. But those who don’t have much money are left behind.”

Free laptops for all students used to be the norm. In the meantime, this is no longer possible for the lower grades at this school in Espoo near Helsinki. Teaching in Finland is largely digital.

Image: ARD

Head to head race

The government under Prime Minister Sanna Marin led the country in the direction of NATO and has recently received a lot of encouragement on the international stage. But domestically there is a crisis. During her reign, the country has accumulated more debt than ever before. The reason: the corona pandemic and the energy crisis as a result of the war in Ukraine. During the election campaign, the Social Democrats under Marin are now considering raising taxes to save the Nordic welfare state.

The conservative challenger Petteri Orpo, on the other hand, calls for strict austerity measures. According to the latest polls, his National Coalition Party is just ahead of the right-wing populist grassroots Finns. A change of power is in the air. Also because the Social Democrats will probably no longer be able to rely on the support of the Center Party in the five-party coalition after the election, as they can now.

The leading candidate and head of the National Coalition Party, Petteri Orpo, is calling for strict austerity measures, even if this would mean painful cuts in social spending.

Image: AFP

welfare state at risk

For decades, people in Finland have been used to the state always being there and caring. Tiia Marietta will be a mother for the first time in a few weeks. That’s why the entrepreneur, like all pregnant women, was given basic baby equipment: rompers, blankets and even a winter suit. Finland’s state thinks of the little ones in the country.

Every expectant mother receives basic baby equipment as a present from the Finnish government. The amount of content included in this free delivery has halved in recent years. They say inflation is the reason.

Parents get all of this for free. A few years ago there were still 63 things in the box. But because of inflation, their content has almost halved. “I still have the feeling that Finland takes care of me as an expectant mother,” she says. But the problems lie in the health system. “I’m worried about having a child in a hospital that is now understaffed and the staff is unhappy.”

Right-wing populists see their chance

According to the UN’s latest World Happiness Report, Finland has the happiest people in the world. In view of tight budgets, however, there are now concerns in the election campaign that this happiness will not last much longer. Riikka Purra, chairwoman of the right-wing populist party “The Finns”, is creating a mood and warning against too much immigration, even though just ten percent of the population has a migration background.

Riikka Purra, the leader of the right-wing populist party “The Finns,” warns against too much immigration, even though only ten percent of the population has a migration background.

Image: ARD

“We have an increasing juvenile delinquency. There are foreigner gangs. In addition, there is the weak economic performance of our country. We now have to think about the Finnish taxpayers and how we carefully handle their money. Many of our problems have to do with immigration.” , says Purra im ARD-Interview. Voter turnout could increase slightly compared to 2019. More than 1.3 million Finns have already cast their votes early. That is 2.8 percent more than in the last election.

You can see the report on the subject in Weltspiegel – on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in the first.

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